Swizz Beatz Shills for the Saudi Government, Jacolby Satterwhite Gets a Portrait by Rachel Dolezal, and More Juicy Art-World Gossip

Plus, what artist was Wolfgang Tillmans spotted collecting in London? And check out a photo dispatch from a clued-in L.A. dealer.

If you can't read spanish, this is Swizz Beatz wearing a jacket that says
If you can't read spanish, this is Swizz Beatz wearing a jacket that says "among individuals, as well as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace." Seriously! It says that. Photo: DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)

Every week, Artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops. If you have a tip, email Annie Armstrong at [email protected].

 

SWIZZ BEATZ POSTS SAUDI SPONCON

Art-world influencers: they do the darnedest things, and take money from the wildest places! Two days ago, Artsy chief marketing officer Everette Taylor posted an Instagram picture sponsored by QuickbooksPBS once paid artist Pari Ehsan to visit and advertise the Met; and newly appointed Pace associate director Kimberly Drew made some easy cash earlier this year plugging a non-alcoholic liquor.

No shade from me! If anyone wants to give me money in exchange for a simple task like posting a picture, please kindly and hastily slide into my DMs. There are, however, some boundaries I think we ought to draw, no? Consider, for instance, mega-collector Swizz Beatz and his wife, Alicia Keys, who seem to have landed a very cushy job working for the Saudi government.

Late last week, Swizz publicized their cozy relationship on Instagram with a sponsored story (paid for by “Experience AlUla,” a governmental tourism arm) full of images of the fam luxuriating in the wonder of AlUla, the Saudi government’s $15 billion remodeling project.

As Swizz put it: “One of our family’s fav place to visit many times a yr is the Amazing magical place of ALULA 🙏🏽 This unesco sight is one of the worlds greatest discovery’s ever.” 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Swizz Beatz (@therealswizzz)

It wasn’t just a vacation. Keys was on hand at one of the world’s six remaining absolute monarchies to get some work done. On February 11, she’s giving a concert (“one night only,” according to a promo) at Maraya, the world’s largest mirrored building, also in AlUla.

The event is sponsored by Good Intentions, the “global creative agency” headquartered in Riyadh that Swizz founded late last year. The agency made its big splash last December with an art installation in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

“We’ve always wanted to work with the gatekeepers in that arena and knew Sela [the Saudi government’s public art fund] would be a partner aligned with our vision at Good Intentions,” Swizz said in December. “This is just a scratch on the surface—we’re only going bigger and more disruptive from here.”

Disruptive!

The Saudi government, of course, has been working absolutely overtime since the brazen execution by Saudi agents of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018. That little PR crisis (that’s all it really was for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the royal family) prompted a wave of artwashing efforts to clean up the ruling elite’s image.

The culture industry, in large part, has happily played along. Four months after Khashoggi’s grisly murder (his body was cut into pieces with a bone saw), the Royal Commission of AlUla still included art advisor Allan SchwartzmanIrina Bokova, the former director-general of UNESCO; and Jack Lang, the former culture minister of France, among others. In early 2020, Desert X, the nomadic biennial that first opened in the Coachella Valley in 2017, launched a new edition in AlUla.

“AlUla has always been at the crossroads of trade and culture,” said Neville Wakefield, the director of Desert X. “AlUla presents itself as the perfect site for an exhibition that explores the idea of the desert as a place of cultural interaction, dialogue and exchange.”

Not everyone was thrilled: Ed Ruscha notoriously compared the event to “inviting Hitler to a tea party.” But Desert X AlUla parties on: it opens its latest Saudi edition on February 11.

So Swizz’s and Keys’s sponsored trip was just another little coup for Mohammed bin Salman. Who better to distract from the government’s dismal human rights record (including executions for nonviolent offenses, the jailing of dissidents for unpalatable tweets, and a campaign of devastating airstrikes in Yemen that have contributed to the deaths of thousands, many of them children) than a very, very cool music producer and his talented and glamorous wife? 

Maybe to get Swizz Beatz-level rich, you need money from some of the wealthiest monarchs in the world. I can’t say. But surely he and Keys could keep things simple, and take a nice affordable trip to St. Moritz, Gstaad, or Minorca? To each their own!

 

RACHEL DOLEZAL PAINTS A JACOLBY SATTERWHITE PORTRAIT

Jacolby Satterwhite and his original portrait by Rachel Dolezal. Courtesy Jacolby Satterwhite.

Jacolby Satterwhite and his portrait, painted by Rachel Dolezal. Courtesy Jacolby Satterwhite.

When dealing with artists, I’ve learned it’s best not to question where inspiration comes from. Maybe it’s a fleeting memory of childhood, the anguish of war, or even the creative exploits of disgraced activist Rachel Dolezal.

For those who’ve forgotten, or were lucky enough to be uninitiated, Dolezal made headlines in 2015 when she stepped down from her role as president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP after it was revealed that she was lying about her racial identity.

Dolezal, who was born to white parents, had been posing as a Black woman for years, and it was her biological parents who “outed” her as a white woman. (Dolezal also falsely claimed Native American heritage. It’s a lot.) Eventually, Dolezal ‘fessed up to the whole thing, but still maintains that she “self-identifies” as Black.

Eventually, after her reputation as an activist was destroyed beyond repair, she turned to visual art (she was especially enamored with J. M. W. Turner, who in 1840 painted a slave ship). Since then, Dolezal has quietly been painting and making charcoal drawings. Enter Jacolby Satterwhite‘s sardonic eye.

“I’ve been obsessed with her being an artist for years,” Satterwhite told me. So obsessed, in fact, that his friends commissioned Dolezal to create Portrait of Jacolby (2021) as a birthday gift for Satterwhite, who turned 36 in January. The work even comes with a certificate of authenticity that “acknowledges that this original painting was painted by Rachel Anne Dolezal.”

Proof that Satterwhite's Rachel Dolezal piece is authentic.

Proof that Satterwhite’s Rachel Dolezal piece is authentic.

I sent an email to the Dolezal studio asking what she charges for works, and it turns out this commission went for a modest $550.

“Rachel’s art is for everyone who resonates with a resourceful process, an ongoing resilience, and a revolutionary spirit,” said Shannon Ayers, an associate of Dolezal’s.

A quick look at the artist’s website reveals that she sells custom charcoal drawings for between $350 and $950. But you can get an acrylic work on an 18-by-24 canvas for a cool $1,100.

As I’ve said before, I’m a gossip, not a critic. But there is something sweet about Dolezal’s portrayal of Jacolby. Perhaps it’s just because it’s based on such a cute photo of the artist as a child, but she was able to capture the way the sunlight hit young Jacolby’s face pretty well. I don’t know—it’s not terrible! The piece can be viewed in Satterwhite’s apartment, or very tinily, as his Instagram profile pic.

 

WE HEAR… 

Wolfgang Tillmans goes shopping.

Wolfgang Tillmans goes shopping. Courtesy a tipster.

Wolfgang Tillmans bought a wall-based photo keyring sculpture by Roxy Lee at the exhibition “Cold Lunch” at Ridley Road Project Space in London … The East Village’s Bodega gallery is moving from its spot on Rivington Street to 197 Grand Street in Little Italy … Brooklyn-based abstract painter Angela Heisch has joined GRIMM gallery … Artist Blake Kunin has a book coming out of photographs of New York graffiti artists, ahead of his first solo exhibition at Leo Fitzpatrick’s gallery, Public Accessthis spring …

 

SPOTTED 

Takashi Murakami misidentified as Haruki Murakami.

Takashi Murakami misidentified as Haruki Murakami. Courtesy a tipster.

*** A feature in Runner’s World Magazine incorrectly including a photo of Takashi Murakami in a piece referencing novelist Haruki Murakami, yikes! *** Diana Vreeland’s art-filled (I mean filled) apartment is up for sale, although the price is not listed *** David Byrne calling untitled artwork “pure laziness” and a “convention we’ve learned to live with” at a Pace Gallery talk alongside documentarian John Wilson, in which the likely/unlikely duo cracked each other up over and over again before a crowd that included Sarah Sze, Judith Bernstein, and Anne Pasternak *** Jamian Juliano-Villani and her O’Flaherty’s partner Billy Grant modeling garments by Miriam Laura Leonardi, which she made during her residency at the Swiss Institute *** Eric Andre promoting an edible NFT on Instagram *** Lévy Gorvy has erased all of its Instagram history, officially donning the LGDR moniker *** 

 

WET PAINT IN THE WILD

I am simply beyond excited to head back out to the West Coast for Frieze Los Angeles next week. To wet my whistle, I called upon Alex Rojas, director at Anat Ebgi Gallery, to take me through a week in her life, hanging out with the collector crowd out in the city of Angels. Take it away, Alex!

I started my week with a studio visit to Roksana Pirouzmand. She’s over at UCLA in the MFA program - some of the most interesting work I’ve seen in awhile. Shout out to friend and collector Khoi Nguyen who told me I needed to visit!

I started my week with a studio visit to Roksana Pirouzmand. She’s over at UCLA in the MFA program. Some of the most interesting work I’ve seen in awhile. Shout out to friend and collector Khoi Nguyen, who told me I needed to visit!

Barret, the loveliest press man in LA w/ a Jane Margarette charm in current exhibition ‘A Honey of a Tangle’ at the gallery’s La Cienega space.

Barret, the loveliest press man in L.A., with a Jane Margarette charm in the exhibition “A Honey of a Tangle” at Anat Ebgi’s La Cienega space.

My foot in Jane Margarette’s bear trap work - Psychically Milked is the actual title of the work. This happens to also be my favorite work in the show. I first saw Jane’s work in 2019 at her MFA open studios - fell in love the rest is history.

My foot in Jane Margarette’s bear trap work. Psychically Milked is the title. This happens to also be my favorite work in the show. I first saw Jane’s work in 2019 at her MFA open studio and fell in love. The rest is history.

quintessential LA moment w/ Chris Burden

A quintessential L.A. moment with Chris Burden.

Visit to see Greg Ito - he’s working on an upcoming solo show at ICA San Diego

Visit to see Greg Ito. He’s working on an upcoming solo show at ICA San Diego.

Next to Greg’s studio is Sow & Tailor, the gallery he run’s with his wife Karen and Stefano di Paola. I stopped in to get a little preview of Tidawhitney Lek opening on 2/13. The show is amazing and she has a well deserved waitlist a mile long.

Next to Greg’s studio is Sow and Tailor, the gallery he runs with his wife, Karen, and Stefano di Paola. I stopped in to get a little preview of Tidawhitney Lek’s show, opening on February 13. The show is amazing, and she has a well-deserved waitlist a mile long.

Back @ the gallery w/ my favorite painting Bubble Girl by Janet Werner ;)

Back at the gallery with my favorite painting, Bubble Girl by Janet Werner ;).

Quick drop off at my dear friend Jack Siebert’s house - love him - love his collection. Here he is stunning with an Ivy Haldeman.

A quick drop off at my dear friend Jack Siebert’s house. Love him, love his collection. Here he is, stunning with an Ivy Haldeman.

More Siebert Collection - Lauren Quinn and Amanda Wall.

More works from the Siebert Collection: Lauren Quin and Amanda Wall.

Jordan Nassar installing his exhibition opening at Anat Ebgi.

Jordan Nassar installing his exhibition at Anat Ebgi.

Gwen O’Neil in the studio w/ Hampton. Gwen lives in my neighborhood with her partner Tommy - I see them at least once a day when walking through Whitely Terrace. Recently, Tommy converted their studio in the neighborhood into an artist-run space called “Blue Door Gallery.”

Gwen O’Neil in the studio with Hampton. Gwen lives in my neighborhood with her partner, Tommy. I see them at least once a day when walking through Whitely Terrace. Recently, Tommy converted their studio into an artist-run space called Blue Door Gallery.

Neidy Lizbet, one of the founders of In Lieu Gallery and artist in her own right, at our friend Hayley’s 30th birthday party on Friday night. Neidy is always, hands down, the most fashionable person in any room.

A cute corner with so much stuff I love - Joshua Petker, Katja Farin, Frances Stark, Edgar Bryan pizza book (thank you @oof books!!), Katherina Olschbaur, a cute candle of my dog Willie by Janie Korn <3 one of my most prized possessions.

A cute corner with so much stuff I love: Joshua Petker, Katja Farin, Frances Stark, an Edgar Bryan pizza book (thank you, Oof Books!), Katherina Olschbaur, a cute candle of my dog, Willie, by Janie Korn <3 one of my most prized possessions.

Non-art world event on Saturday @ Crypto Arena but I LOVE THE LAKERS.

Non-art world event on Saturday @ Crypto Arena, but I LOVE THE LAKERS.

 

WET PAINT QUESTIONNAIRE

My lovely Wet Paint readership was noticeably shy about last week’s prompt, which was: What art-world person never remembers who you are, no matter how many times you’ve met?

I am unabashed in my answer: I’ve met Jerry Saltz several times, and each time, he forgets me. When I remind him, he goes on to tell me that my generation will be the death of criticism, or something like that.

My colleague Julia Halperin was also unabashed in her answer, writing: “I have spoken to Marc Spiegler on the phone and met him in person—in the bright glare of the Miami Beach Convention Center—at least… a dozen times? C’mon Marc, you know me!” Meanwhile, an anonymous former director at a top-tier gallery name checked dealer Graham Steele.

This week, riddle me this: What’s the best artwork inside someone’s apartment that you can see from the street? Email your responses to [email protected]!


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